The idea generator – high volumes of ideas, quickly

If you have ever wanted to rapidly generate high volumes of ideas, then there is (probably) no better place to start than with the idea generator, a totally proven tool which is guaranteed to produce a wealth of creative output..

The main principle of this tool is to capitalise upon the relationship between specific ideas and general approaches to rapidly generate high volumes of ideas and it should be applied on the back of some initial creative output.

Here is an example of how it works.

If asked to come up with some ideas to get water out of a normal drinking glass without picking it up, knocking it over or damaging it in any way, amongst others some of the answers may include to use a straw, to displace the water or to soak the water up with a sponge.

Two of the above ideas are very specific and one is somewhat general. The specific ones are to use a straw and to soak the water up with a sponge. Both of these are things that assuming we had the straw and the sponge we could do immediately. Therefore, these are specific ideas that can be immediately and practically applied.

The third idea of displacing the water is at this stage a general approach, displacement. It remains general because the ‘how’ has not been answered. It is the harnessing upon the relationship between specific ideas and general approaches that lies at the heart of this tool.

Specific ideas and general approaches

Specific ideas are ones that are immediately and practically applied but behind them lays a general approach. For example, the general approach behind the use of a straw is suction and we can use this to generate further ideas. How else might we suck the water out of the glass? We could use a pen barrel, a vacuum cleaner, a syringe, etc.

One of the general approaches behind using a sponge is capillary action. How else might we be able to immediately and practically apply this general approach? We could use any form of porous or semi-porous material including a handkerchief, scarf, shirt, dish cloth, etc.

By tapping into this ability to identify the specific ideas in our creative output and find general approaches that lie behind them will enable us to move on and identify many more specific ideas to address our focus.

The third idea of displacing the water is general approach and we identify these from within our creative output we can start to think about how we can practically make them happen. What could we use to displace the water? Sand, pebbles, another glass, coins, in fact any object that will fit inside the glass. So from our one initial idea of displacement we could quickly identify numerous further specific ideas.

Imagine you have generated a list of ideas for the use of a paperclip, for example holding paper together, hair clip, stress toy, pick a lock, jewellery, a weapon, clean your fingernails, weight for a paper plane, a chain, and a clothes peg. Which of these are specific ideas and which are general approaches?

Once you have identified them, how can you make the general approaches happen and what general approaches lay behind the specific ideas you have identified and what further specific ideas does this enable you to identify?

For example, one of the general approaches is jewellery. What specific ideas will make this general approach an immediate and practical reality? What forms of jewellery can you think of? The ideas may include a necklace, a bracelet, ankle chain, earrings, cuff links, hair clip or belly button ring. Seven further ideas to add to our original one.

One of the specific ideas you might have identified from the list may have been a hair clip. One of the general approaches behind this is to use the paper clip to hold things together. What else might we hold together with a paper clip? Paper, pairs of socks, plants, balloons, cables and so on.

The idea generator is simple to grasp and ideal for rapidly generating high volumes of ideas. It is just one of a huge toolbox of thinking tools and processes that are available, all of which will vastly contribute to any innovation initiative.


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